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From: Canada

Metal, Progressive, Rock

Montreal’s Voivod has long been heralded as an innovative and visionary force within the world of extreme music. For more than 25 years, the band has performed Heavy Metal alchemy by fusing various strains of thrash, punk, hardcore, progressive, and psychedelia to create some of the most engaging, provocative, and, oft times, surprisingly accessible music of their day. Founding members Denis “Piggy” D’Amour (guitar), Denis “Snake” Bélanger (vocals), Jean-Yves “Blacky” Thériault (bass), and Michel “Away” Langevin (drums) started out with the concept of the Voivod, a futuristic warrior/overlord whose exploits would be chronicled in the band’s lyrics and artwork – the latter of which has been created solely by Away. Over the course of their 12 albums, Voivod has pushed its musical sci-fi story to the end of infinity and re-emerged, reinvented, and revitalized itself countless times over and remains a respected name in circles where quality music and ideas, not gimmicks and trends, are held in high esteem.

The Voivod universe burst into existence in the early 1980s as the fledgling thrash metal movement was just getting under way. Working on a musical diet that consisted of notorious outfits such as Venom, Motörhead, and Mercyful Fate, Voivod began by creating brash, punishing music suffused with the primitive thrust of bulldozer riffs and spitfire vocal howls. Albums such as War and Pain (1984) and Rrröööaaarrr (1986) are raw, apocalyptic blasts of Metal screed – bristling with all the intensity of four youths who, having been cooped up in a practice space for an entire Canadian winter, unleash their restless tensions upon unsuspecting instruments and microphones.

Killing Technology (1987) saw the band refine their sound and expand beyond the influences that their early “faster/louder” material would suggest. Most notable was D’Amour’s transformation into a guitarist whose tempered style was as informed by progressive stalwarts such as King Crimson and Pink Floyd as by any of Heavy Metal’s shred ‘n’ burn class. Dimension Hatröss (1988) further developed the band’s unique style of Cyber Thrash and Nothingface (1989) can be viewed as the logical culmination of everything the band had been striving for to date. Songs such as “Missing Sequences” and “Pre-Ignition” display an angular, surgical paranoia that codifies the ultimate futuristic dystopian fantasy. Where the band could go from here was anyone’s guess. It should serve as no surprise the group took a sharp turn with their next album, Angel Rat (1991). Straddling alt-rock and metal while still retaining the common DNA that makes it distinctly Voivod, Angel Rat served as a new beginning for a band that was always changing. One change, however, came in an unexpected way when, after the recording of Angel Rat, Jean-Yves “Blacky” Thériault chose to leave the band.

Tweaking the more hook-friendly approach from their previous album, Voivod issued The Outer Limits (1993) in Blacky’s absence through the help of a session bassist. Vocalist Denis Bélanger, however, was soon to depart, as well – he left the following year. Regrouping with Eric Forrest doubling up on bass and vocal duties, the band recorded two decidedly more aggressive studio albums in Negatron (1995) and Phobos (1997) before the band called it a quits in 2001.

In 2002 Voivod opened the door for Bélanger to resume his position as frontman while longtime fan and ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted stepped in to round out the rhythm section as the band recorded and released their eponymous album, Voivod (2003). Sadly, the reinvigorated Voivod met with tragedy in 2005 when founding member and guitarist Denis D’Amour passed away following a prolonged battle with cancer. The loss of D’Amour rocked not only the band, but many in the music world who had come to regard him not only as one of the most creative and innovative guitar players of his time, but as a genuinely caring and thoughtful human being. Working with basic guitar tracks laid down by D’Amour in his home, the rest of the band came together to record Katorz (2006) – an album of energetic, punky metal anthems in the Voivod tradition.

Finally, 2009 brings us Infini. Like its predecessor, Infini was created by working with guitar tracks laid down by Denis D’Amour on his laptop. The rest of Voivod have fleshed out Piggy’s ideas to produce an album that lives up to the Voivod standard and pays tribute to the final songs recorded by D’Amour, whose guitar tracks appear precisely as they were recorded – no re-amping or overdubs. This truly collaborative effort came together from a respect and belief that these final Voivod songs deserve to be heard.

Infini may close the chapter on Voivod, but ultimately bolsters the band’s legacy as one of their generation’s most inventive and forward-thinking groups. And, fittingly, the band that always had its compass set towards the future does indeed have a future. Summer of 2009 should see the band playing a handful of festival dates with original bassist Blacky returning to the fold and Dan Mongrain of Montreal prog-metallers Martyr filling the guitar slot. Expect the band to perform a wealth of classic Voivod material. Meanwhile, Jason Newsted is still very much a member of the band and there is a good chance that shows will be scheduled to highlight material from the last three albums that he was a part of. The band is also currently working on a short clip documenting the making of Infini.